American Dreams: The United States Since 1945

Overview

The story of our nation from the A-bomb to the iPhone-from bestselling historian H.W. Brands

With keen insight and an impeccable sense of the spirit of the times, H. W. Brands, one of today's preeminent historians, captures the American experience through the last six decades. As he chronicles politics, pop culture, and everything in between, Brands traces the changes we have gone through as a nation, recounting the great themes and events that have driven America- from the ...

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Overview

The story of our nation from the A-bomb to the iPhone-from bestselling historian H.W. Brands

With keen insight and an impeccable sense of the spirit of the times, H. W. Brands, one of today's preeminent historians, captures the American experience through the last six decades. As he chronicles politics, pop culture, and everything in between, Brands traces the changes we have gone through as a nation, recounting the great themes and events that have driven America- from the Yalta conference to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Apollo 11 to 9/11, My Lai to "shock and awe." In his adroit hands, movements and trends unfold through a character- driven narrative that shines a brilliant light on America's watershed moments and reveals a still unfolding legacy of dreams.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Though this crisp, informal narrative overview of the last half-century of American history is long on story and short on analysis, it does its job well. Bringing his trademark clarity to the tales he tells, bestselling historian Brands (The First American) opens in post-Hiroshima days and closes in our own. He covers everything important, from politics and war to culture and society—civil rights, music, the baby boom, and the middle class. But it's hard to swallow the sappy conceit of Americans as “dreamers” with which Brands tries to thread the book together. “[T]he heart of America's dreams was the act of dreaming itself... it was encoded in the country's DNA from the beginning.” But what has dreaming to do with the cold war or the embarrassments of the Nixon and Clinton administrations or with the Great Recession? Americans' collective dramas may be on hold for the moment, Brands concludes, but individually, they are as ambitious as ever. Despite its thematic weakness, Brands's book is a fast-moving, reasonably comprehensive history of more than half a century of American history. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
Two-time Pulitzer finalist Brands (History/Univ. of Texas; Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 2008, etc.) accounts for the last seven decades of U.S. history. The author begins with "the war that never ended," as World War II shaded into the Cold War. The Soviets, though weakened by six years of bloodletting, were resolute enough to effectively seize half of Europe after the war-and to impose the blockade of Berlin that led not just to the celebrated airlift of 1948, but also to the pitted struggle of superpowers and their allies that continued for nearly half a century. "Stalin and communism supplanted Hitler and fascism as the enemies of America," Brands writes, and with that swap came the Red Scare, the HUAC and Joseph McCarthy. There was some actual shooting, too. The author ably investigates the international nature of the Korean War, which involved China and Russia as well as North Korea on one side and the United Nations and United States on the other. Amid all this, Brands charts the rise of the new trivialism and consumer-driven infantilism that saw, as one journalist noted, "shoppers carry Mickey Mouse satchels and briefcases bursting with Mickey Mouse soap, candy, playing cards, bridge favors, hairbrushes, chinaware, alarm clocks and hot-water bottles, wrapped in Mickey Mouse paper, tied with Mickey Mouse ribbon, and paid for out of Mickey Mouse purses with savings hoarded in Mickey Mouse banks. Brands's chronicle of the sweeping social-good legislative packages that passed through House and Senate during the administration of Lyndon Johnson will prove thrilling-but also sobering-for anyone contemplating the currentgridlock on Capitol Hill, while his account of the carefully planned rise of the Christian Right stands as an important warning. Necessarily cursory-will leave readers wanting more-but elegantly written and sharp.
Library Journal
The title here doesn't fit: neither dreams nor the American psyche is the focus of this book, which is simply a solid introduction to American history since World War II. Pulitzer Prize finalist Brands (history, Univ. of Texas at Austin; Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt) offers little that's new here, either in facts or in analysis. He dutifully covers all the bases but doesn't delve very deeply into anything. The information he includes about sports and culture feels tacked on to the main narrative, which is the usual rundown of political and world events but unfortunately narrated with little passion, as compared, for example, with a book with lots of historical information yet passionately conveyed, such as Sean Wilentz's decades-long history, The Age of Reagan, which covers much of this period. VERDICTDreams reads like a history textbook for the classroom, albeit better written than the K-12 variety. It would be best as a primer for high school students, undergraduates, or other readers in need of an acquaintance with recent history.—Michael O. Eshleman, Lebanon, OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143119555
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/31/2011
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 200,547
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

H.W. Brands is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of the Pulitzer Prize finalists Traitor to His Class and The First American, among others. He lives in Texas.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix

I Visions Of Omnipotence: 1945-1965

1 Last One Standing: 1945-1946 3

2 The War That Never Ended: 1946-1948 24

3 Agnostics and Believers: 1949-1954 45

4 The Golden Age of the Middle Class: 1955-1960 68

5 Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight: 1961-1965 100

II The Twilight of Liberalism: 1965-1986

6 Paved with Good Intentions: 1965-1968 133

7 The Triumph of Cynicism: 1968-1974 159

8 Days of Malaise: 1974-1979 187

9 South by Southwest: 1979-1983 213

10 Fire or Iceland: 1983-1986 237

III Silicon Schemes and Global Connections: 1987-2010

11 History Without End: 1987-1991 265

12 The Good Old Bad Old Days: 1992-1996 291

13 Culture Clash: 1996-2000 315

14 Blowback: 2000-2004 341

15 Still Dreaming: 2005-2010 367

Acknowledgments 387

Notes 389

Index 401

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